We want our kids with hearing loss to be involved and engaged with their friends and classmates, both at home and at school. The more interactions they have with others the greater opportunities they have to learn social and language skills. But, what if it’s not in our child’s nature to engage with others.
“Many of the most important institutions of contemporary life are designed for those who enjoy group projects and high levels of stimulation,” says Susan Cain, author of, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. “Classrooms desks are increasingly arranged in pods, the better to foster group learning, and research suggests that the vast majority of teachers believe that the ideal student is an extrovert,” continues Ms. Cain.
Introversion is not the same as shyness. Instead, it has more to do with how we engage in social activity and our preferences for learning. Introverts often find connecting with large groups of unfamiliar people exhausting (Thompson, 2012). Which can be a double whammy as our kids with hearing loss are already exhausted with the effort they have to put into listening to others all day.
Introverts are energized by quiet, privacy, and working/playing alone or in small groups, they are often drained by noise, distraction, and crowds (Thompson, 2012).
Parents of introverted children often receive comments based on teacher observations, such as “Sarah needs to speak up more in class,” “Sam doesn’t participate in group work as much as he should,” “Emma often sits alone reading on the playground at recess.”
Comments like these often have the opposite effect on children and they can become anxious and increasingly unhappy and frustrated with who they are. As Ms. Cain writes, “Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured.”
Instead, here are some ways you can support your child at home and at school:
- Create a quiet space at home and build in some time during after-school when your child can get lost in a book, or absorbed with a Lego design.
- Hearing loss can reduce the number of opportunities that children may have for incidental learning of social information, where they “overhear” their friends and teachers negotiating social spaces. Help your child become more confident in social situations by role playing the skills needed to handle social situations like a large birthday party, a family reunion, or a school or sporting event.
- Large cafeterias and recess can be times of stress for children with hearing loss, and being an introvert only adds another layer. Talk to teachers/administrators and see if there is a quiet spot where your child can eat lunch, maybe with a buddy. Older children might be able to help in the library or office during their break.
- Be the play-date host – having a play-date in a familiar setting helps to lower the stress of a social situation. One on one time with a friend can lead to social opportunities and for the chance to listen and to speak out without taking too much of a risk.
- Help your child’s teacher understand more about how your child learns and interacts best in the classroom. It’s not to have your child opt out of activities, but instead help your child’s teacher become aware of your child’s limits and how to respect and work within those limits.
Cain, Susan (2012). Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Broadway Paperbacks: New York.
Thompson, Shawn (2012). “Introvert? Extrovert? Tips for a Balanced Classroom.” Canadian Teacher Magazine.